You Can Do It — Surprising Benefits of Reading Aloud

ReadingAloud

It’s “You Can Do It Wednesday,” and today we are focusing on early elementary aged kids, but this tip is actually great for the whole family.

An important part of child development, especially in the elementary years, involves learning new concepts. Through discussion of the story, young listeners begin to understand plot concepts. The inflection in the reader’s voice and emphasis on certain words and phrases helps clarify meaning in ways they could miss just reading on their own.

A friend of ours who teaches middle school English noticed that a large percentage of her students were not yet able to have a vicarious reading experience. In other words, they were not able to see that “movie in their mind” that most of us get when we read. This can make reading a difficult and boring task.

But we have found that daily out loud reading from a young age can help kids develop that skill earlier.

Got a wiggly kid who struggles to sit through a chapter book as you read? Grab some blank paper and colorful markers, and let them draw while they listen. When their right brain is occupied with drawing, their left brain is free to listen.

Don’t worry if they are not following along at first. Just stop often and talk about what is happening. It takes time to be able to listen and comprehend. So be willing to catch them up and offer frequent little plot developments. In time, they will be on the edge of their seat, waiting to hear what will happen next.

Out loud reading is not just helpful for your young elementary student, it’s good for you too! Research has shown that reading aloud is chock full of benefits for the young and old. Want to birth new brain cells? There are a variety of ways to do that, such as learning a new language and learning to play an instrument. Reading aloud is another way to stimulate brain cell production.

There are many other things that out loud reading does to benefit our brains. Here are a few of the big ones:

  • Helps gain greater comprehension
  • Sharpens focus
  • Increases vocabulary
  • Challenges use of intonation
  • Improves listening and reading skills

Got any kids who struggle with dyslexia? Out loud reading can help! Here’s an article that explains why.

So, grab a cup of tea, gather your kiddos of all ages (and especially those early elementary kids) and enjoy some family reading time. In the process, you are birthing brain cells and your bambinos are reaping some great benefits of their own.

read aloud book

A great book to check out on this topic is the Read-Aloud Handbook, by Jim Trelease, also known to some as the “Read Aloud Bible.” It’s full of great tips and information. Happy Reading!

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 5 to 29), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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You Can Do It — Preparing Kids to Write

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-little-preschooler-girl-cutting-paper-image28948149

It’s “You Can Do It Wednesday,” and today we’re offering a couple of hot tips for getting your pre-schooler ready to write.

Part of preparing little hands to write is strengthening them for the task, and cutting is a good way to do that. You can draw lines on white paper with a black Sharpie and let pre-schoolers cut along the lines.

Small pop beads are another good way to strengthen little fingers.

Small Pop Beads

Small Pop Beads

To help pre-schoolers with coordination and motor planning, have them string wooden beads. It’s helpful when they’re first starting to wrap a piece of masking tape around the tip of the string. It gives little fingers extra help to get the string through the bead.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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You Can Do It — Toddler Rice Bin

ricebin

It’s “You Can Do It Wednesday,” and today we are focusing on toddlers.

When my oldest child was 19 months, we began a long road of therapy. At that time, his therapists called it “Sensory Integration Disorder,” but by the time he was two, the neurologist called it Autism.

We had a wide range of weekly therapy appointments — from speech therapy and play therapy to occupational therapy and behavior modification. Along the way, I picked up some cool tips that helped not only my oldest, but were awesome for my other kids too.

One of those was the rice bin!

We filled a big Rubbermaid tote with rice and then hid little toys in it. When it was playtime, I would spread a big sheet on the floor to catch the spill over and give him measuring cups and spoons and a ladle, and he would scoop and pour the rice and find the hidden toys along the way.

So if you’re looking for a fun toddler diversion this week, try a rice bin.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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You Can Do It — Understand Your Baby’s Cries

Crying newborn

It’s “You Can Do It Wednesday,” and today we have an amazing practical tip for parents of newborns.

A number of years ago I watched a fascinating episode of The Oprah Winfrey show that introduced me to The Dunstan Baby Language, which is basically a hypothesis that there are universal infantile vocal reflexes in humans that cause five basic sounds, each with unique meaning, used by infants of all cultures before the language acquisition period.

The hypothesis was developed by a former mezzo-soprano opera singer from Australia. Her name is Priscilla Dunstan, and she says that she has a photographic memory for sounds and that this, combined with her years in the opera and her experience as a mother, allowed her to recognize certain sounds in the human voice.

Priscilla Dunstan

Priscilla Dunstan

 

She released a DVD set in 2006 called The Dunstan Baby Language. The two-disc set covers the five universal words of the language, methods of learning how to recognize the vocalizations and sounds, numerous examples of baby cries from around the world to “tune your ear,” and live demonstrations of newborn-mother groups experimenting with the language.

Between 0–3 months, infants make what Dunstan calls sound reflexes. She says that we all have reflexes, like sneezes, hiccups, and burps, that all have a recognizable pattern when sound is added to the reflex. There are other reflexes that all babies experience, and when sound is added to these, a distinct, preemptive “cry” will occur before the infant breaks into what Dunstan calls the hysterical cry.

Dunstan states that these preemptive cries can indicate what the baby needs (food, comfort, sleep, etc.). But if they’re not answered, she says, they escalate to the hysterical cry, which is much less discernable. As the infant matures past 3 months in vocalization, the sound reflexes are replaced with more elaborate babbling.

Although her theory has not undergone rigorous lab testing, we couldn’t find any real criticisms of it.

The Five Basic Newborn Cries

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Suggested Reading For Kids of Every Age

library

This week we have been talking about the great benefits of reading aloud to our kiddos. If you missed any of these posts, head back to Day 1 and scroll to the bottom for a complete list! To wrap it up, I thought you might want some ideas to jumpstart your read aloud library.

What to Read?

Regardless of their age, look for great stories. Look for stories that are as enjoyable to you as they are to your kids.

E.B. White, the author of Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan said, “Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down. Children are demanding. They are the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and generally congenial readers on earth…Children are game for anything. I throw them hard words and they backhand them across the net.”

That being said, keep the bar high. Choose books with rich vocabulary and descriptions that paint a vivid picture. It takes time for kids to see that “movie” in their mind as they listen or read a story, but the better the story, the more likely that skill will come.

Got wiggly kids? Grab some blank paper and markers, and let them draw as you read. The drawing will occupy their right brain and free up the left brain to listen to the story.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Need Help Getting Your Kid to Sleep?

My oldest child is nearly 16, and the next four came relatively close after the first. So once we nailed bedtime with the biggest kid, the others just followed suit. But our baby, who is 19 months old, came five-and-a-half years after our fifth child. By then, bedtime was a mere after thought.

Bed time stories and teeth brushing songs and tubby time were a thing of the past. Even our youngest could take her own bath, put on her PJs, and climb in bed by the time the baby was born. I had gotten used to just going into the room to tuck her in, pray over her and kiss her goodnight.

So when Matty Jay came along, we were back to square one.

Being in a new season of my parenthood, where my older kids are pretty independent, I’ve been able to work more and focus more on things like the radio show, writing a book, and running a school.

Bedtime has been a breeze for years, and with so many capable hands to help with Matty Jay, I have to confess that I didn’t focus on it one bit. The older kids and I tend to stay up late together, and we didn’t mind if Matty hung around for part of it. I got lax, and my momma muscles got flabby when it came to bedtime.

But a few weeks ago I was reminded that bedtime is just a skill, and like any skill, it can be taught.

I dug back into my early years of parenting, when I had an autistic child, who seemed to need significantly less sleep than the other kids his age, and another baby right behind him.

When Griffyn was about a year old, we had had enough of the Energizer Bunny living in our house. Autism or no autism, we were determined to get this kid to go to bed at a reasonable hour and without any fuss.

I read everything I could get my hands on, talked to every successful parent I could find, picked the brains of all of my son’s therapists, and even took a workshop on it. And I came up with a plan. My husband and I agreed to do it the exact same way every night…even when we went on vacation or stayed at a relative’s house. We vowed to be totally consistent and 100% committed to making it work. And guess what? It worked.

In fact, it worked so well, that I never had to do it again. All of the other kids just seemed to be born into the process, and they all took to it like a fish to water.

Then came Matty Jay, and it was a whole different story.

So a few weeks ago, I sat my oldest daughter down (she does some of the bedtime hours if I’m out or working), and said, “As of tonight, this is the routine. We can never vary or give in. But when we’re consistent and committed, Matty Jay will soon go to bed like a champion. We’ll just say ‘bedtime’, and he’ll climb in and doze off.”

Want to know the keys to success? Okay, here we go.

#1 — Create a routine, and never, ever, ever vary from it, until your little tyke has been a champion sleeper for many months.

Here’s what our routine looks like (it’s the exact same routine we used 15 years ago).
Take a bath
Apply lotion (all my kids love this for some reason) and put on PJs
Read a story (Matty is still nursing so he had some momma milk during story time)
Climb in bed, and sing the same three goodnight songs in the same order (songs make everything difficult seem easier to little people — they’re like the spoonful of sugar to the medicine)
Pray for the baby
Kiss him goodnight
Lights out

#2 — Mommy sits nearby on the floor (or in a chair) and reads. I LOVE being able to read a book on my phone or iPad — so easy in the dark. Fifteen years ago, I had to wrestle with those stupid reading lights. Technology is nice!

#3 — Use the Super Nanny routine for redirection to bed, which goes like this: the first time the kid tries to escape, you pick him up and softly, but firmly say, “Time for bed.” Then put him back in bed. The next time he flees the scene (and every time thereafter), pick him up without a word and without eye contact and gently put him back in bed. Sit nearby, but NOT on the bed. That way he’s comforted to know you’re there, AND you can police the situation.

#4 — Wash, rinse and repeat until the little bugger is snoring.

Here’s how it went down in the Stahlmann house when we began the process a few weeks ago. First, let me say, I was really bracing myself on this one because Matty Jay might just be my most willful child!

8:00pm We started the tub water and brushed his teeth. The boy LOVES a tubby, so this part of the process was a hit. After the tub, we followed the above routine to the letter.

8:30pm Lights out and momma sitting nearby reading the best potty training book I’ve ever laid eyes on (more about that in future post). Matty tried to escape the bed no less than 10 times, and with many tears. Momma stayed calm and stuck to the plan.

9:00pm Snoring!

Now, this is a big deal. Not only is this an UBER-willful child, but he typically drifts off at about 10:30pm, so 9:00pm is big change to make overnight. But he did it.

So where are we now, after a few weeks. Well…the second night was harder because he knew what was coming and fought back, but he was still asleep before 9pm. Every night thereafter got easier, and the fight lessened. Now, about five weeks into it, there are no tears. In fact, he’s excited for the routine. He loves picking his bedtime story, sings the good night songs with me, and then takes about 5 mins to fall asleep.

My guess (from past experience) is that in a few months, I’ll be able to kiss him goodnight after the songs and leave the room.

Any questions?

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Transcending The Ballet Budget

It’s back to school time, and that means time to pay tuition for ballet, club soccer, swim team, and whatever else your budding star might pursue this year.

While we all know financial constraints are a reality, especially when it comes to extra curricular activities, if it’s God’s plan, He will provide. If your child is passionate about something, but the cost doesn’t fit your budget, pray and ask God for creative ideas to fund it.

Call the activity directors and ask if there are scholarships or financial aid or if you could exchange work for lessons. You might be able to answer phones, file, stuff letters, and so on, in exchange for all or part of your child’s tuition.

Horse back riding lessons are pricey, and we have a big family. But when our older daughter had dreamed of being an equine vet, so we knew that horses need to play a part in her extra curricular plan. During her annual week of horse camp, she had built relationships with the trainers and worked out a deal to exchange cleaning out stalls for riding instruction.

Now that music is her primary focus, opera is a focal point in her education. On our own, we wouldn’t be able to afford the youth opera program, but the opera house has wealthy supporters who want to infuse the next generation with a love for opera. Their endowments mean scholarships for kids like Skyler who are passionate about music.

If all else fails, talk to family members. A semester’s tuition could be a far more valuable Christmas or birthday gift than toys or clothing – especially if it’s something that feeds your child’s true passion.

As you plan this year’s extra curricular activites, don’t let financial constraints hinder your child from pursuing her passions. With God all things are possible!

 

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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